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A New Idea About Time Keeping

There is a new clock in town and it promises to be around for a long, long time. In fact the plan is that it will be around for 10,000 years. The new clock would be a Y10K model - one of a kind.

Background

A California based group of computer entrepreneurs and futurists are building a gigantic clock that would last at least 10,000 years. The clock would tick once a year and chime just once a century. The Supercomputer designer, Daniel Hillis, came up with the idea. He calls it the "world's slowest computer". Steward Brand, the group's leader, wrote The Whole Earth Catalog in the 1960's about self-sufficiency and hopes that his clock will be just that, self-sufficient and a survivor.

The group working on the clock hopes that this solar powered "millennium clock" will be came a cultural icon. It is meant to inspire people to look beyond their everyday lives and short-term projects and consider man's long-term responsibilities for our planet.

Clock Information

The group picked the ridge of limestone cliffs in the Snake Range of eastern Nevada as the site for the clock. The ridge is 11,600 some feet high. Their first step will be to have miners excavate a vast cavern in the rock to hold and protect this monumental timepiece. Two thousand feet of limestone will become the roof of the clock.

Future Clock
Click for larger image

A nonprofit foundation called Long Now Foundation has been set up to direct the project. It is spending $500,000 on an 8 foot tall prototype of the clock. The finished version would stand 8 stories high and end of costing tens of millions of dollars. The 80 acres of light on Mount Washington cost about $140,000 and is being called Long Mountain..

The clock's face will be designed to show how the years would be designated with five digits, such as 01999. Even the group's website and publications list the year of all dates with the 5-digit designation. So that dates would read March 1, 02000 rather than March 1, 2000.

The clock time span of 10,000 years was selected because "that is the size of civilization so far," Steward Brand explained. The Clock of the Long Now will be featured in his new book by that title. He explains the selection of the location by saying that the desert dryness and the remoteness would help to preserve the device

This is one of the photos of the prototype of the Long Now or Y10K clock. The working model was to be finished in time to chime at midnight when 1999 turns to 2000.

For more photos and information visit the Long Now Foundation's website. An article by Danny Hillis tells more about his vision for the clock.

Activity

Have students think about this clock as they envision what the future may hold for them and future generations. This clock is intended to last for 400 generations. What other types of timekeeping devices might be needed for our future citizens. This innovative, futurist thinking group should offer some inspiration to those designing clocks for the new Millennium and the Millennium Clock Project.

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Carla Schutte, Mike Lipinski, Susan Silverman
Gail Watson, Tammy Payton
March 2000